How Pets Help Seniors

Older Couple Playing with Dog

It’s typically a child’s job to advocate for their own puppy—I have vivid memories of 12-year-old me forcing my parents to sit on the couch while I painstakingly put together a PowerPoint presentation to outline all the benefits a dog would provide. However, the American Pet Products Association’s 2019-2020 National Pet Owner’s Survey revealed that perhaps a new class of people are advocating for pups: Seniors.

Pet ownership provides Baby Boomers with a sense of comfort and purpose in their daily lives. When seniors take care of a pet and live with them, it activates a chemical chain in reaction in their brains that helps lower stress while increasing the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone.

Overall, the biggest benefits revolve around physical and mental health. In addition to the emotional support and companionship pets provide seniors—especially those widowed or divorced—it’s also shown to reduce pain and emotional distress. Other benefits include providing a feeling of purpose, as it stimulates physical activity and gives seniors an excuse for exercise. 

Pet ownership also alters focus, as pets give seniors something to focus on other than any physical, mental, emotional or familial issues. On the physical side, dog owners have lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease and healthier cholesterol levels than non-dog owners.

Finally, it helps seniors establish a routine—feeding, playing, walking, grooming—that will bleed over into their own lives. Having structure gives seniors a renewed sense of importance, and having a routine might even ward off depression.